School of Public Affairs Focuses Research, Technical Assistance, and Teaching

School of Public Affairs Focuses Research, Technical Assistance, and Teaching

May 18, 2020

Faculty and students in the School of Public Affairs are using their expertise to address the many layers of the COVID-19 crisis. From public health research to a virtual innovation summit on the future of networks to outreach efforts within at-risk populations, the School of Public Affairs is finding new and relevant ways to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Dean Teske

“In this unprecedented time, SPA faculty, like our students and alums, are stepping up to address issues related to the pandemic. The difficult choices that governments are making show the value of well-trained public servants and policy expertise,” said Dean Paul Teske. “I am so proud that our faculty are focusing their research, technical assistance, and teaching on these critical issues.”

Read on to learn more about the School of Public Affairs’ response to COVID-19.


Webinar Highlights Faculty Work on COVID-19


Summit Explores Networks in Crisis

The Center on Network Science co-hosted the May 18 Network Innovation Summit: Networks in Times of Crisis. The all-day, sold-out online event explored big questions about the future of networks in times of crisis, including a special panel on COVID-19.


Faculty Publish Work on COVID-19

In his paper, Professor Chris Weible gathered nine scholars from seven different countries to contribute to initial reflections and insights about how governments are responding to the COVID-19 perspective. “The paper emphases the challenges in making sense of this multi-faceted issue as it evolves over time,” Weible said.

Weible is also teaching a new course this summer titled, “The Pandemic, Societies, and Government.”


Grants Fund Project on Risk Communication

Associate Professor Deserai Crow is working on a project funded by two grants to measure the extent to which individual risk perceptions and behaviors are shaped by not only the differential policies and risk messaging strategies utilized by government officials, but also by preexisting structural factors, such as racial, economic, and gender disparities. Her work is uniquely positioned to simultaneously inform existing public health strategies while advancing to extant literature on risk communication, she wrote in an email.

An internal CU Denver ORS grant for $15,000 is funding the collection and analysis of COVID-19 policies and government communications messages about those policies from all 50 states, plus D.C. Two School of Public Affairs PhD students will be working on that project during the summer and fall. The RAPID NSF project is funding a panel survey to learn about the COVID-19 risk mitigation behaviors (masks, staying home, etc.) that people in six specific states are participating in, and their perceptions of risk and sources of information about COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 crisis affects every part of our lives and we saw a role for policy scholars and public health researchers to collaborate and help during this time. We hope that the findings from our work will provide usable information that states can bring to bear on their policy decisions and the way that they communicate to the public about complex ideas such as health and economic risk,” Crow said.


Center on Domestic Violence Builds Awareness in Times of Crisis

This year, the Center on Domestic Violence celebrates its 20th anniversary. The program within the School of Public Affairs had planned to host 20 activities over the course of the year. Instead, many of these plans have moved to Zoom and social media to continue to engage the community in the center’s pursuit of effecting change and ending violence.   

“In this time of economic uncertainty, the Center is actively strategizing on the best ways to continue our important work in response to COVID-19, and for the next 20 years,” said the center’s director, Barbara Paradiso. “We are finding new and creative ways to ensure that K-12 schools, college and university campuses, and rural communities have the support they need to effectively address rising rates of violence.”

One important role the Center on Domestic Violence has played is helping to build awareness on a local, national, and global level about the ramifications of COVID-19, and how the world’s responses to the virus impact victims of gender-based violence. To date, the center has interviewed and been quoted in 10 articles on the subject from CGTN Digital in Beijing, China, to Mother Jones and the Wall Street Journal.

Each program in the Center on Domestic Violence is answering the call for new response strategies with passion and innovation. END Violence, a child and youth-centered program that the Center for Domestic Violence designed to empower K-12 schools with resources for survivors, has readjusted alongside the schools they serve. Measures the END Violence program are taking include introducing tele-health individual and group counseling services with students and creating a website landing page with youth-centered healthy relationship resources.

In addition, in collaboration with the federal Office on Violence Against Women, the Center for Domestic Violence provides training and technical assistance on comprehensive and effective responses to gender-based violence to approximately 400 colleges and universities and rural communities across the U.S. The Center has retooled to continue that valuable work through the use of virtual platforms. The Center’s staff have also produced two COVID-19 organizing toolkits to support service providers in their efforts to continue to engage their communities in addressing domestic and sexual violence.